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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  January 26, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EST

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tavis: good evening from los angeles. i am tavis smiley. today, part one of our conversation with kathleen turner. she is a leading lady with a string of films including "body heat." health issues hampered her career. but kathleen turner has returned to her first love, the theater. it is a show about texas writer molly ivins, and is currently playing in los angeles. part one of our conversation, coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it is the cornerstone we all know. it is not just a street, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your
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pbs station from viewersike you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- tavis: i am pleased to welcome kathleen turner to this program. the actress is receiving terrific reviews for lettuce stage production, a one-woman show based on the life of legendary texas writer molly ivins, called "a red hot patriot." it is currently running in los angeles at the geffen playhouse. here is a scene, the weight of molly ivins. -- wit of molly ivins. >> it is time we changed our national emblem from the eagle to the red white and blue
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condom. the condom allows full inflation. it halts production. it protected bunch of -- protects a bunch of pricks. it also gives a sense of security while you were being screwed. i am a liberal, and damn proud of it. fish caught to swim. parts cut to bleed. tavis: i miss molly ivins. >> i do too. tavis: especially around these times. her commentary on this presidential race would be delightful. >> the thing i think a lot of people do not realize about who we are spreading to speak of is that mali was incredibly well informed and politically savvy. she was not simply a humorous in
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that sense. she really understood how the government works and our responsibility as citizens, and our rights, which i think we have lost so much knowledge of. tavis: what warrants for mali being featured -- molly being featured in a one-woman play starring kathleen turner? >> we share many of the same values. and perhaps somewhat the same kind of personality, in that i am not very accepting of a lot of the precedent set by other people, shall we say. so i am very attracted to it in that way. but also, what happened when we first developed this in philadelphia -- now we are here at the geffen playhouse.
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i am always having to introduce her to a lot of people, because she was not -- she was not widely read in the northeast. after the new york times fired her, there was a sort of disapproval of her in the northeast. i found many people really do not know her work or who she was, or what she wrote, very well at all. i think it is important. tavis: she was not just a great writer or great humor list -- humorist. she was a woman. she was a trailblazer. tell me more. >> when she started out, right out of college, she started that "the houston chronicle." it was her first job. there is a photo of the whole newsroom and everything. the character says, "what is wrong with this picture?"
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that is right. it is all men. and it was. it was consistently all man. for many years, she was the only woman at that level of reporting. tavis: as a woman, and i suspect as more than just getting her story about, it was about empowering women. or am i reading too much into it? >> i do not know it's so much empowered women in particular. i think it is more in powering americans as citizens. i think one of the great losses in our time has been, like so many of the arts, it has been considered an unnecessary luxury or expense to have civics class is, to teach our kids their rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the united states,
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with a result, i think, that we have created a climate of almost victimization that we have. generations now of americans who feel powerless. to me, the most important aspect was not so much about women, but about the individual citizen. tavis: i want to dig deeper and have you unpacked this for me. tell me more about the link between a lack of appreciation for the arts and people feeling disempowered. what is the link? >> what i would say is that like a lot of the art education or exposure to the arts, which is considered an unnecessary luxury, the way of civics class is and that type of teaching -- classism that type of teaching -- i think the construction is needed.
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tavis: what do we pay as a society for not valuing the arts as we should? >> i am constantly -- this is something that has been an ongoing crusade, of course, the many years and many times i have been to washington to fight for even just a little -- hold on to the budget we have, the national endowment of the arts, or anything like that. i try to point out that what we have left, of all the great civilizations that preceded us, are, in essence, the arts -- there panting, they're writing, other sculptor, there of architecture. -- their painting, their writing, their sculpture, their architecture. what will be our legacy if we do not treat it with the same respect? tavis: how did you get drawn to
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this calling, this location? >> of acting? tavis: in the arts. >> heavens. my mother tells me it was inevitable. i remember thinking when i was 12, "ok. that is how i will make my living." we had just moved to london. my father was with the foreign service. he was a consul. we had been posted to london. the first night we were in london, i snuck into a theater. i was all the way up at the highest tier, which in england is very, very high. the call if god's, because it is so far up there. i remember thinking i could make my living doing this. in my family, at least, it had always been regarded as a hobby. maybe you do a little community theater or something. you do not take it seriously as
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a profession. all of my brothers and sister and i knew we would be having to earn our own living. when i was 12, i thought, "all right. i could make my living this way puzzle that was that. tavis: how is that working out for you? >> it has worked out great. i have had a lot of wonderful years. tavis: so many of us came to know you in that wonderful movie "body heat." there are a number of things i could ask about that. i will start by asking what the -- i know the upside, because the movie was so successful. what is the downside of starting your career as a sex symbol? >> i think i was both smart and lucky, in that, first of all, it strikes me, as many things do these days -- i just suddenly realized that was 30 years ago,
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when that was released. tavis: it goes fast, doesn't it? >> i guess it has. i don't know. it certainly made quite an impact, quite a wave. the film itself was pushing the limits of what had been done, in terms of sexuality on film up until that point. we knew that. we knew that we were risking a lot. in fact, when we finished shooting the film, i came back to the work. they did not actually pay much money for that. i came back to new york and started working as a waitress again for a while, paying my rent. people would say, "you have been gone for so long." i said, "actually, i was a leader in a motion picture." they said, "what is it called?"
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i would say, "body heat." they would go, "0 -- ohh." the first thing i did after that was good to arena stage in do "midsummer night's dream." this is where i was lucky and may be smart, to contrast the role i had just done with something quite the opposite. my next film role was the man with to brains. -- "the man with two brains," which was a spooff a femme fatale. tavis: you ran past that story so fast. you have to get back to the diner, where you were working as a waitress. you have done "body heat." was the reaction of the customers and the clientele when it comes out, and the waitress
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they see every day in the diner is the star? >> it was -- i don't know. i was not still waitressing when it came out. by then, i had gone down to washington to do "a midsummer night's dream." doing theater has always been an essential part, to me, of my career. it was suddenly -- i got a great many invitations to dinner. tavis: i can imagine. >> yes. it was really kind of -- tavis: especially in washington. >> the next time i flew out to los angeles, suddenly i am getting calls from jack nicholson and warren beatty, and all these types. pretty crazy. but i learned very quickly to always drive myself every where, because to get stranded in l.a.
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was really, really -- tavis: [laughter] you left me speechless on that. when "body heat," comes out, did you ever have regrets about playing that part after it came out? >> no. in fact -- you see, to me, my greatest fear, when we were doing, "body heat," was that i would be sexy. i did not have this image of myself as this alluring, powerful, sexual female. i really thought that i would throw a smoldering glance at bill hurt and people in the audience would start to dig 0.
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-- to giggle. i was surprised when it was so effective. bill and larry kept saying, "truly, you are sexy. it is ok." i had this fear. i would come to work without makeup, and my hair in a cap. everybody thought i was a boy. to me, that was not really -- i was not very convincing. i just knew that i could never get on the new parts -- ingenue parts, because of my voice. that was always too low to play the sweet young thing. i always thought young girls are kind of boring anyway. tavis: there are certain actors, certain musical artists, whose voices are so distinguishable.
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how has the voice helped or hurt your career? >> i think it has been great, on the whole. truthfully, today, i am a little used up, because i just did a show weekend, and i had bronchitis two weeks ago. this is not quite as rich a voice as i prefer to have. but when i get a day of rest, we will see. in any case, it was -- it was extremely helpful, in terms of when they wanted a specific kind of woman for a role, or something like that. it works against them, -- against us, if they wanted a more generic. if they did not want the woman to stand out too much, they did
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not want me. because i could not change. tavis: i am going to bounce back and forth, because there is so much in your rich -- >> it is because i have been doing it so long. tavis: so long and so well. >> i will take that. tavis: you suggested earlier how much you love the theater. i recall in an interview you gave some years ago that you always thought that you would do better on the stage. >> as i grow older. tavis: why? >> because the roles that are written for women as they grow older in theater are much more powerful. a truth i have usually found, in terms of film making, especially conventional studio film making, is that they need to be able to immediately identify what each person's role is -- i.e. the love interest, and the
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vicious, dried-up spinster, the grandmother. they want to be able to immediately -- the result being they do not really right much of a character. onstage, you are going to spend a few hours with this character. they have to write more. which would give you much, much more to work with, and much richer and much greater conflict. as i grew older, i kept my theatrical skills, always, because i knew that would become true. my dreams became true five years ago, when i did "who's afraid of virginia woolf." that was everything i had dreamed of it being, that it could be. i dreamed of that character for 30 years. i think being able to say that
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is such a joy. tavis: i am glad you are still here and doing what you are doing. this is an odd question. i have been a fan for many years. i was so pleased, having never met you until today, and excited for the success. if your stage career had ended then, you would have been happy with that as the end? it was received so well. >> i do not see why it would or should. what i have enjoyed very much now creating in theater. the play we are doing here, the kick us -- i am not supposed to say that. tavis: sure you can. >> there is another play i am also doing this year, called "high," which is about the
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battle between faith and addiction. i played a rather unusual none. -- nun. what i find exciting is being in on the process of creating a new piece of theater altogether for our library. >> aside from the taxing on the voice of doing so many shows of the weekend and throughout the week -- what is the challenge of doing a one-woman show? this is you. you are up there for 75 minutes. >> there are a lot of words in 75 minutes. it is interesting, in terms of acting. i do not imitate. i am not pretending to be molly ivins. i am playing, acting molly ivins, in a way that evidently
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is close enough. i had the most extraordinary experience. her brother came backstage after a show and rapped me in his arms. he is a very big guy. he was crying. he said thank you for keeping her alive. that has happened over and over again, where people who knew her have come to me and said that we have captured her spirit and her wit, and her passion. that is very, very pleasing. because it is a funny line between acting the person who you knew, or just imitating. i have been on the board of people for the american way for 22 years now. we are protection of the first
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amendment and watchdog of the religious right. two areas in which molly ivins and our interest coincided quite often. she was involved with some of our offense. but the most fun i ever had was when ann richards moved to new york for cancer treatments and everything. she took an apartment in the building i was living in. one day, i walked into the lobby, and there is molly and ann waiting for the elevator. they looked at me and looked at each other and said, "you are coming with us." i said, "yes i am puzzled when we went up and the commence telling stories on each other. can i tell the story? tavis: i was about to ask if you could regale us with some of this good stuff. >> molly said that when ann was
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starting out in texas politics, so much of the politicking was done at backyard barbecues, this kind of thing. she went to these events with her constituents, a young woman and a young black man, so the good old boys, of the bubbas, would come over and say, "aren't you just a picture? and who is the sweet young thing you have with you?" and they would ignore this young black man. they would not focus on him, she said. finally, in the apparently had enough of this. somebody came over and she said, "judge, i am so glad to see you. i need you to meet my new husband." tavis: that is so and richards. -- ann richards. i would have looked to of than a
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fly on the wall to see the two of them. >> it was like the three of them. it was a force of nature. tavis: i miss and richard as well, her wit. -- ann richards as well, hwer wit. >> i work with her daughter, who is now president of planned parenthood national. i have been an advocate of planned parenthood for 18 years now. tavis: have you always been this cause-driven? >> yes. part of it, very specifically, was part of being brought up in a diplomatic family, a foreign service family. through my father and mother, you started early and you worked hard on being part of the community, on helping the community grow, and contributing. in service -- my father called
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himself a public servant, in the best sense of the word. what it has come to mean, i think, in recent times, is that you did not make it in the private sector. but to him it meant giving service to our country. that is how i was brought up. that is what i believe in. tavis: so much more to talk to kathleen turner about. she is in town now. if you are in the l.a. area, it has been extended, because it has been doing so well. it is called "red hot patriots, the kick ass wit of molly ivins." is playing at the geffen theater. >> it is a great theater. tavis: if you are in the region in the next few weeks, check out kathleen turner here. tomorrow, and will continue this conversation. i have not gotten to the good stuff yet.
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"romancing the stone" is one of my favorite stories of all time. i promise i will not start with that. thanks for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> and there i am at a ball or some other virgin sacrifice. six weeks old, red hair and freckles. my mother said i look like a st. bernard among greyhounds. i was quick enough even then to know that was not a compliment. not that she meant it unkindly. my mother just have a habit of not thinking things through. which is not to say she was unintelligent. she was nobody's fool. just seriously dixit. -- ditsy. >> for more information, visit pbs.org. tavis: join me next time for part two of our conversation
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with kathleen turner on her acclaimed new one-woman show. that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has emerged luther king boulevard. it is the cornerstone we all know. it is not just a street, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station, from viewers like you. thank you. you. thank you. >>
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